Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Greenhouse In A Valley

Today was just the most beautiful, and moving day.  A few weeks ago I got a couple of calls from four or five people who needed stuff done. Of woman, the mother of a friends old employee (a gorgeous young beauty) called me a bit frantically about a greenhouse she was desperate to get into the ground before winter.  Her husband was too busy (and besides, she confided in me, he was frustrated that he couldn't figure the "kit" out. She was concerned about the effect of the whole project on her husbands manhood.)  They couldn't seem to figure the greenhouse kit out.  The snow would be flying soon.

"I can come tonight," I told her, three weeks ago.  "Oh, no.  Not right now... can you do it in a few weeks?" she asked me.

"Sure, just let me know. It's my pleasure."

So last night, after visiting my mentor in Indy, I drove to the Green's property down a road, North of Bloomington, which I had never been on.  The rode dove and dipped over ridges and down, steep and deeply into valleys, huge hardwood forests blanketed the landscape and small patchwork farms popped up at vertiginous angles.  The drive alone was like being in a national park.  And the Winter blood red sunset wasn't breaking my heart.  Having only missed one turn I called Pamela a few times, since the hills were killing my cellphone signal, and literally a hundred yards from her property, I turned down the thin ribbon of "road" and pulled up next to her falling down barn.

She showed me where the greenhouse was supposed to go.  I told her, "Great.  Where's the greenhouse kit."  She pointed to the falling down barn.  She thanked me and her husband shook my hand, and I went home, and was relieved to have finally looked them in the eye and shown them that I cared.

Well, today I drove back to the property, stunned at the unbelievable beauty of the valley in which they live.  It's nothing like a mountain valley.  It's midwestern.  But the hills are gorgeous and late morning fog and cows mix with the hardwoods recent loss of leaves, and an azure sky, to give all manner of feeling to this man.

So, when I pulled up to the house, I knew, this was the perfect location to be today.

All day long I searched and found solutions to that damned greenhouse.  It was supposed to be bundled up into a "kit" which was coded by little tickets and numbers and letters that the fifty page assembly book referred to.  Instead of such an organized "kit" what I found was a pile of aluminum posts and angles underneath a bunch of junk in the barn.  There were no identifying marks left attached.  Rain had soaked any and all paper and cardboard.  And a small pile of Raccoon shit topped things off like an Iron Chef.  I could see why Pamela had commented to me that she didn't doubt if I thought she was crazy.  These people weren't even trying.

That said, my policy is to enjoy the strange fact that in my life today, what would have confused me enormously in the past, and scared me away from trying things, I push right into and refuse to be afraid of these days. Every time the instructions turned out to be wrong and the "kit" didn't have the right pieces or identify in the instructions the right sequence of events, I just laughed to myself, that once again everything would work out, and at the end of the day I'd have a greenhouse, where Raccoons once stooped to conquer.

At the end of the day, Pamela came into the slanted winter light that had followed all the day through the valley, sweeping around the 120 year old Oak tree that stood off fourteen yards away ("There's a spring underneath that tree, and I guess the tree really likes that water," she told me.  Such a lovely woman.)

"I'm going to remember this incredible day on your delightful home property for the rest of this year and beyond, Pamela."  I think she actually blushed.  The embarrassing evidence of her husbands regret were being swept away by the bright glints of sunlight, shining off the newly erected aluminum structure.

"Were you hoping to start some plants in there, in February?" I asked her.

"Oh yeah," she said, smiling with scarcely concealed pride. "You never did get too frustrated today, did you, Andy?"

"More curious, then frustrated, Pamela.  I guess I'm not obligated to experience every complication in my customers lives as frustration in mine.  And besides, sometimes the world has really bad information, at hand, for an otherwise pretty reasonable cause.  A greenhouse is a wonderful thing to conjure in the world, and regardless of my amusement at the damned "creative" soul who designed this kit, I can't help but appreciate that you have now allowed me to go and tell my friends, when they ask, 'Yeah, I built a greenhouse today, for Pamela Green.' Thanks, Pamela Green.  You still think that I think you are crazy?"
"I guess not," and she smiled that beautiful smile.  I drove away, through the hills of this lovely world I live in, and couldn't help but wonder how that Winter tinged emerald valley came my way, save for grace, and the chance to be a little bit useful to the Green's.


Wine and Words said...

Being usefull lengthens the life span. Sounds like a lovely setting for frustration. Better than an office eh?

Andy Coffey said...

Wine and Words,

I'm glad to hear this health effect of usefulness. In that case some of my favorite people surely will live to be one hundred. Usefulness is something of a religion among my people. Probably a little to much. But then again, they LIKE longevity as well. So...
Yeah it's a really lovely setting for anything but a parking lot. I haven't a clue how my friends settled there. Or I did, for that matter!
Great to see you here. Thanks.

Ande said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ande said...

A grand post, Andy

It contained all the ingredients of a really good story. Also, an interesting discussion above. I absolutely agree with you both, but I feel that longevity do not have to do anything with being useful. I guess it depends on the point of view. From the point of society, yes of course. Helpfulness seems to be the key to getting anything. And its a wonderful thing, being useful. But (perhaps as a Swede), I feel that this behavior also can be a foundation for individual annihilation. Does the longevity of the body really matter if the psyche stop function as a decider? I think Camus "The Stranger" depicts this dilemma well. The protagonist stops being useful when committing a murderer (in revenge). And he feel this huge "don't care" feeling(is this because he dosen't "feel useful"). Oh well, I'm having a glass of wine or two (or four) this Saturday night, excuse me if my reasoning is a bit incoherent.

Andy Coffey said...


Thanks for reading, as always. And your thoughts are so great for me, due to the way they spell out your convictions, frustrations, hopes, and very particular qualities as a person.

Its funny. There are a lot of different people in this world that I like. And man, sometimes they have nothing in common at all.

I like conservatives, and libereals, and leftists.... losers and winners and whiners, and cats who'd wouldn't think to complain if a car ran them over.

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that you have a unique and interesting perspective on this longevity question. Your Ande.

And don't worry about the booze, you make perfect sense.

My feeling is that if a person feels obligated to be anything, then their soul suffers mightily. If a person becomes a doctor, because that's what their parents do, it might be the case that they simply chose medicine. But unless they tell you, "this was what I always wanted" you might be concerned that they feel obligated.

More to the point: being useful is just another way of saying that there is more going on when you do a job then the making of money, or getting paid. Your life goes beyond the transactive, trade of obligations in custom. Your life sometimes can be ABOUT helping people. And sometime are lives (if we're very very lucky), are more or less about helping others. This has nothing to do with duty, and everything to do with honor.

And of course, loving others pay's in ways so mysterious that theirs no "accounting" for it at all.

Somewhat different than a gift such as "taxes." There is a perversion of "usefulness" if one were to ever ask themselves about obligations!

And I pay nothing compared to you, my friend.

Thanks for your kind reading of my Blog, Ande.

Harlequin said...

I like how you have woven all these folks together in this tapestry of community...this is so often how it is, yes?

Andy Coffey said...


I am absolutely thrilled to see you put it that way. Though at first I thought you were describing the Green's (I rather doubt this, upon further reflection... though I am no genius.)

Obviously I like having YOU here. Though I believe you came for the community, possibly more than due to anything I did.

The funny thing to me about every generation is how they take credit for some phenomenon that is supposedly the cats meow, and it turns out that the "new thing" is merely another reflection of our endless and super duper nature: yes, us... fucked up humans.

I'm shocked anybody reads this thing, as most of my friends play chicken with me (like everyone) in conversation to see who can go the longest without listening to the other. Then they feign fidgety discomfort should I talk about something they aren't interested in. This was a small part of why I wrote my blog for so long simply as a personal journal to a ostensible public.
I am thrilled people read the blog, but more than anything I am thrilled that the phenomenon of blogging and your talking to me, is yet another nail in the coffin of the cynic. I say give flowers to 'em, and weep uncontrollably... turns out we love each other (after all.)
Thanks so much for inspiring ME.